Review Summary: breathing new meaning into the world
Little Simz has built her career on a series of contrasts. Her incredible debut A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons
was a grimy, nasty affair that didn't waste a second in building its shadow-dappled world of dead bodies and hard-hitting beats, much like what GREY Area
would do four years later to slightly less thrilling results. Inbetween these two, naturally, was an inconsistent psychedelic concept album using Alice in Wonderland
as an extended metaphor for the rap game, plus a series of EPs which varied between dreamy indie pop, trunk-rattling posse cuts and smooth R&B. One look at the towering, interlude-heavy tracklist of Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
, you'd be forgiven for thinking this often-baffling, always-thrilling London rapper has swung the pendulum once again, away from the brutal bangers towards the conceptual.
That's not exactly an incorrect assumption, but it's not even close to the whole story. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
is indeed another hefty concept album, this one exploring what it means to be an outstanding woman through an ever-widening series of lenses: as a daughter to a beautiful mother ("Woman") and a complexly-rendered absentee father ("I Love You, I Hate You"); as one of the best, boldest rappers in the game ("Rollin Stone") and an introverted loner ("Introvert"); as someone who clawed for and earned a place in the limelight ("How Did You Get Here") but is unsure of how healthy it was to grow up there ("Standing Ovation"). Once again there are interludes, narrated in a surreal twist by Emma Corrin of Netflix's The Crown
doing her Princess Diana accent, and the tracklist clocks in at a little over an hour compared to its predecessor's tight 35 minutes.
But this is no Stillness in Wonderland
part two. For one thing, it's both more complex and more consistent, rendering all the ideas above with a flawless set of production and no middling features that pale beside Simz's whipcrack-fast wit and delivery. It also, for lack of a better phrase, absolutely fucking whips: tracks like "Rollin Stone" and "Fear No Man" bang hard enough to match GREY Area
's best moments. It's a true work of art that can place these tracks besides the African pop banger "Point and Kill" or sweetly heartfelt "I See You" and never lose its self-reflective, contemplative tone.
In truth, this is an entirely new beast from the UK rapper. There's an argument to be made that Sometimes...
is the fullest realisation of all Little Simz's facets, that the contrasts she's always employed from project to project are trapped in amber together in this one breathtaking moment. How else to interpret the colossal, orchestral opener - one of the best tracks of the year, by any possible metric – about introversion and quietude? Or the instant classic "Standing Ovation", which interrogates her complex relationship with fame by shifting back and forth between upbeat boom bap and soft jazzy interludes? "With the title, you wouldn't expect this to sound so huge. But I'm finding the power within my introversion to breathe new meaning into the word," Simz states on Apple Music.
It's easy to become overly removed on a project like this, one which is so unapologetically and clearly about the artist themselves, but Simz is talented and smart enough to account for this. Hear "Little Q, Pt. 2", where she delves completely into the life of a cousin with whom she lost contact for a few years, before he nearly died as the result of a stabbing. Hear "I Love You, I Hate You", and its universal relatability to anyone with a strained relationship to a parent, or "I See You", about as pure and wholesome a love song as any rapper this good has ever produced. If any part of Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
is bound to be isolating, it's the interludes, which play out as a bizarre dialogue between Simz herself and a critical other voice, whether that be internal or the (weirdly posh) voice of the woman society expects Little Simz to be. There's value in the way they tie the album together thematically, and the producers include engaging musical flourishes such as wild choral parts and orchestration, but they aren't exactly appointment listening on repeated spins.
The production by Inflo - heavily theorised to be the guiding force behind mysterious UK collective SAULT - is absolutely the linchpin holding Simz's myriad ideas together. The rapper and producer sound fully in lockstep, whether it's orchestrating lavish string sections or trafficking in absolutely filthy beat switches. Truth be told, it's the kind of album rappers should be dying to make: smart and sensitive, beautiful and brutal, uncompromising in doing exactly the things it sets out to do. As the 27-year-old rapper winds through the path of her career until now on "How Did You Get Here", there's an unsaid question hanging over every brilliant note: if Little Simz has done all this and fought this hard to make her first absolute classic, where is all this potential going to take her next?